Give it a squeeze!
What’s the best way to choose a perfect peach? Give it a squeeze! Now scientists say it’s the same for IVF embryos. Engineers are a practical bunch. Teamed with doctors at Stanford University, bioengineers realised the feel of newly formed IVF embryos offers a super quick indicator of viability.
Normally it takes 5-6 days until the embie grows to 60-100 cell stage to select the best candidate for transfer. With a disappointing 70% failure rate for single-embryo transfer, there’s a temptation to pop in two at the same time to boost conception chances. It’s not always good for babies or mothers as dangers mount with multiples. ‘We can’t really tell which embryos are viable or not, and twins increase the risk of neonatal mortality.’ explains dream-team study lead, Livia Younez.
Science stories can seem very staid. What I love about this one is the idea of people talking – and realising that something significant had been picked up and just might be worth exploring. Barry Behr, PhD., is the director of the IVF lab at Stanford University. He noticed embryos with varying consistency.
Senior bioengineering lead of the study, Prof. David Camarillo PhD reveals,’Our colleagues are surprised we can gain so much information from a simple test. Nobody expected such robust results.’
Researchers discovered from working with embryos that if they are very squishy or too hard to the touch the genetic profile parallels the rigidity. Key genes were found to be too revved up or simply slacking in organising cell division, repairing DNA and aligning chromosomes properly during crucial cell replication.
Remember how one single swimmer wins the race to enter the egg? Ever thought about how the thousands of other hopefuls are stopped in their tracks? What happens is ‘Egg Hardening.’ I kid you not. It’s triggered right after the successful sperm is safely aboard and fertilising the ovum. Scientists found the gene responsible for this lock-down is itself down-regulated.
Don’t expect to see your friendly embryologist get up close and personal with your fresh embryos. Gentle micro-manipulated pipettes, designed by clever engineers, will get it exactly right. Additionally, gene therapy may eventually offer treatment options.
Meanwhile, we have a safe and proven method to improve IVF outcomes – and reduce wait times.
It’s surprising that simply squeezing an embryo on the day it was fertilised can tell if it will survive and become a baby,’ adds Dr. Camarillo.
As far as I’m concerned anything that cuts down the horrible waiting time for IVF is most welcome. Cost shouldn’t be an issue. Very simple equipment is needed. The beauty of testing so early allows the best embryo to get settled where it really belongs …. right inside mum’s womb!